Transoral thyroidectomy offers a scarless alternative

Author: UChicago Medicine

It was just every single time looking into the mirror, I didn’t need to be reminded of my own mortality, you know. It’s a constant reminder of the time that I had cancer. So aesthetically, it wasn’t a big thing for me. But just to have that constant reminder, I didn’t want it.

Today Sheri Caine plays with her son Corbin and it’s like nothing ever happened. She has no reminder of her surgery due to thyroid cancer because of a new procedure at the University of Chicago Medicine called a transoral thyroidectomy. Right now the best candidates are those that have smaller tumors or well-localized parathyroids. Smaller tumors, smaller thyroid tumors or well-localized parathyroid glands.

People with thyroid cancer are eligible if they have very small thyroid cancers. And pretty much everyone who has a benign type of thyroid problem that needs an operation is eligible depending on the size of the tumor. The transoral thyroidectomy is a scarless approach to thyroid surgery as well as parathyroid surgery. The surgeon makes three small incisions on the inner bottom lip, and uses laparoscopic instruments through those incisions to remove the thyroid gland without any visible scar left on the patient. The idea for the surgery came from a demand for a truly scarless procedure. I think the consideration is how much the external scar affects their quality of life. Many of our thyroid cancer patients are younger and they are women, and for them, the opportunity not to have a scar and to remind them of their disease is one which we take seriously.

The outcomes for the procedure are equivalent to the open surgery, so essentially there’s no greater risk by having this additional approach in the correctly-selected patients. So, following the surgery, some patients may have bruising of their chin and neck. That goes away within a period of one to two weeks. We usually keep our patients overnight in the hospital to make sure that they’re making a good recovery in terms of their pain.

Transoral thyroidectomy offers a scarless alternative

Yeah, the amount of time for recovery is very similar to the traditional approach. In most cases, the majority of the recovery is going to happen in the first three to four days. We typically recommend a least a week off from work, but we find already that people end up going back to work even sooner than that. Sheri said the recovery was easy for her…and quick. I was afraid that it hurt more or anything else but it actually didn’t. My mouth healed almost instantly. It was a day or two later that my mouth had completely healed and then all this bruising was gone after about a week.

Sheri was very pleased with the care and communication she received from the people at the University of Chicago Medicine. Dr. Grogan and Dr. Gooi both came to talk to me before the actual surgery started.

The nurses were great, the anesthesiologist was wonderful, everybody came to check on me afterward. It was an amazing experience. They were wonderful.

They called to check on me, it was great. Does Sheri have any advice for someone considering scarless thyroid surgery? I would tell them to do it in a heartbeat. There’s no scar. There's no reminder that I ever had the surgery.

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